Dan Shanahan: 'I'd have won an All-Ireland with Derek McGrath as manager'
By Jackie Cahill
Dan Shanahan believes that he’d have won an All-Ireland medal as a Waterford player if Derek McGrath was his manager.
Shanahan captured four Munster titles, three All-Star awards and was named Hurler of the Year in 2007 during a glittering career at the top.
But the big one eluded the Lismore man, who played on exciting and flamboyant Waterford teams that ultimately fell short.
The closest Shanahan came to a Celtic Cross was in 2008, when Waterford reached a final but were crushed by Kilkenny.
The hurling Gods were against the Déise in 2004, when they were without suspended John Mullane for an All-Ireland semi-final, and again three years later, as Limerick stunned them at the same stage.
The current Waterford team is now preparing for a third successive semi-final under McGrath – with Shanahan on board as selector.
And while McGrath has come in for some criticism for his use of the sweeper system, Shanahan reckons it might have served Waterford well during his playing days.
He said: “Go back to 2007, if we’d brought in a sweeper against Limerick?
“That’s no disrespect to the lads in charge then, but if Derek McGrath had been in charge, I think we’d have won All-Irelands.
“We might have come with a different game plan instead of 15 on 15 all the time.
“Justin (McCarthy), to his credit, used to say ‘go where you want’.
“Maybe I was intelligent enough to hang around the square, grab a high one and bury it.
“I believed in my ability but the game has moved on since my time. And in ten years’ time it’ll have moved on again.”
Shanahan notes the similarities between now and 13 years ago – when Waterford were preparing for an All-Ireland semi-final without one of their big players.
Mullane was ruled out after he was sent off in the Munster final victory over Cork, famously declaring that he’d do the time after doing the crime.
Waterford are sweating on Tadhg de Búrca’s availability ahead of Sunday’s clash with Cork, with a Disputes Resolution Authority (DRA) meeting to decide his fate tomorrow night.
And while Shanahan says that it’s “not the Tadhg de Búrca show”, and that Waterford will “drive it on” regardless, he realises how big a miss Mullane was in 2004.
They lost to Kilkenny by three points and were heavily reliant on Paul Flynn for scoring power.
Shanahan reflected: “An unbelievable player (Mullane), and there were a lot of people by all accounts willing to support an appeal.
“The manager made the decision that we weren’t going to appeal it.
"Times have changed. I don’t know who’s on these CCCCs and who’s making the decisions, but Mullane got caught.
“There was a small bit of malice in what he did, there was nothing in Tadhg’s.
“But he would have made the difference if he started that day. He was a massive loss, but these things happen.”
Shanahan doesn’t really care how Waterford get through against Cork – as long as they do.
“Semi-finals are about winning,” he says. “If it’s eight points to seven with ten sweepers, we’ll take it.
“We played two unbelievable semi-finals against Kilkenny last year and what was the result? We were beaten.
“We’ve worked hard to get there. The lads know that too, they’re an intelligent bunch.
“We need to start winning these semi-finals. Some days you have to play badly and win rather than play well and lose, like we did last year with Kilkenny.
“And those games took a lot of steam out of Kilkenny for the final, while we might have rattled Tipp on the day.
“Next Sunday is different, Cork are the best team in the country and I’m being 100 per cent honest.”
If de Búrca is ruled out through suspension, a starting place is on offer in the Waterford team.
And that could see Shanahan’s brother Maurice, who’s been excellent in an impact role, drafted in.
And Shanahan said: “He’s champing at the bit to start, but look at Brian O’Halloran, Tommy Ryan, the influence they’ve had coming in, Colin Dunford.
“I’m mentioning them because they haven’t started the last couple of games.
“Maurice has been unbelievable, there’s a spring in his step and isn’t that a good thing?”